Tour de France 2024 stage 13 preview - last chance sprint before the mountains

With only two sprint opportunities up for grabs, all the fast men will be vying for victory

Date: Friday July 12, 2024
Distance: 165km
Start location: Agen
Finish location: Pau
Start time: 13:30 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:21 CET

First suggested by Napoleon, and finally completed in 1900, the Boulevard des Pyrénées was designed to make the most of the stunning backdrop of mountains that distinguishes the small town of Pau. As an almost kilometre long, artificially constructed balcony, the boulevard is to Pau what the Promenade des Anglais is to Nice, offering panoramic views of the Pyrenean peaks some 50km to the south.

The promenade was built at a time when Pau was a tourist hotspot for the great and the good of upper society, but these days it isn’t quite so fashionable, and the local economy has moved on the petrochemicals since the discovery of the Lacq gas field in the 1950s. However, its location as a gateway to the Pyrenees has made it a popular Tour de France venue since first being used in 1930; in fact, only Paris and Bordeaux have hosted more stage finishes, and today will be the 63rd time a stage has finished here. The most recent occasion was in 2019, when Julian Alaphilippe stormed to a rousing time trial win while wearing the yellow jersey, but it's more typically associated with bunch sprints, either as a day of respite in between mountain stages, as in 2018 for a stage won by Arnaud Démare, or as one final chance for the fastmen before they enter the Pyrenees, as when Marcel Kittel won here in 2017. And sometimes the lumpy terrain can aid the cause of the break, with escape specialist Pierrick Fédrigo outgunned the rest of a six-man group to claim the last of his four career Tour stage wins in 2012

The parcours of stage 13 means this could go either way. On their way southwards through Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the riders must take on a similar amount of climbing to yesterday, with a comparable 2,000 metres elevation gain. The main difference is that this time the climbs are backloaded. The opening two thirds of the stage undulate without offering anything especially difficult, and the first categorised climb, the 1.5km, 6.9% Côte de Blachon, doesn’t come until 127km into the stage. That’ll make things easier to control for the peloton at the start of the day, and should help them prevent too strong a break getting clear; the flipside is it’ll be more difficult to control later, and the Côte de Blachon and Côte de Simacourbe (1.8km at 6.4) that follows it could provide springboards for potentially stage-winning attacks out of the peloton.

Again, though, like stage 12, there will be many sprinters' teams resolved not to let this chance slip. This is the last chance for a bunch sprint before they enter the Pyrenees, and, without the usual Champs-Élysées finale awaiting them at the end of the race, they only have one more chance in the final week. There will be many desperate not to give any breakaway an inch. 

Route profile sourced via ASO

Contenders

This is the second to last stage labelled as a sprint opportunity, as after stage 13, the race heads into the Pyrenees and then there is only one opportunity for the fast men in the final week of racing. So, with limited chance for victories on offer, those lacking a win will be desperate to have their name at the top of the standings on stage 13. Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dstny) is one of those riders. He’s been impressive so far, despite this being his Tour debut, but he is yet to secure a stage win. He’s come close, two third-place positions, but he will want to bag the win in order to call this Tour debut a major success. 

Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) will be feeling the same, having taken a second place and a third place so far this Tour. He won two stages the last time he raced the Tour in 2018, and he'll be hoping to find some of that winning form going into this stage after being so close to a stage victory. Others sprinters yet to get a stage win are Pascal Ackermann (Israel-Premier Tech), Sam Bennett (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Arnaud Démare (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X Mobility), and Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious), all of whom will be aiming for glory in Pau. 

While those riders will still feel the pressure of not having a stage win, there are four riders in this Tour who will be feeling a bit more relaxed in comparison. They have a stage win, any more is a cherry on top of the cake. Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) is having a superb Tour so far – he has three stages and a strong lead in the points classification. But he also doesn’t look like there is any stopping him, so we wouldn’t be surprised if Girmay makes it a fourth stage win. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), however, will make sure that is as hard as possible for his sprint rival. The Alpecin rider didn’t have his usual leadout in stage 12 after some of his teammates, including Mathieu van der Poel, were caught up in a crash, so will hope for better luck in this stage. 

The Manx missile, Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan), also has the weight of the world off his shoulders now after clinching the record-breaking 35th stage victory on stage five. He did place fifth on stage 12, so 36 stages could be on the cards. Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco Alula) is the final rider who has won a stage and could certainly take a second stage having looked strong in all sprint stages this race.

Stage 13 winner prediction

We think Biniam Girmay will take the stage. He has incredible momentum at the moment after a hat-trick of stage wins, and we reckon he'll make it a forth in Pau. 

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